Bayonet

A bayonet (from French baionnette) is a knife, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear.[1] In this regard, it is an ancillary close-quarter combat or last-resort weapon. However, knife-shaped bayonetsЧwhen not fixed to a gun barrelЧhave long been utilized by soldiers in the field as general purpose cutting implements. The bayonet seems to originate in 17th century France.[2] The term bayonette dates back to the end of the 16th century, but it is not clear if bayonets at the time were knives specialized to be fitted to the ends of firearms, or simply a type of knife. For example, Cotgrave's 1611 Dictionarie describes the Bayonet as "a kind of small flat pocket dagger, furnished with knives; or a great knife to hang at the girdle". Likewise, Pierre Borel wrote in 1655 that a kind of long-knife called a bayonette was made in Bayonne but does not give any further description.[3] A possibility is that the bayonet originated as a hunting weapon: early firearms were fairly inaccurate and took a long time to reload, thus a hunter of dangerous animals such as wild boar could easily have been exposed to danger if the hunter's bullet missed the animal.[4][5] The bayonet may have emerged to allow a hunter to fend off wild animals in the event of a missed shot. This idea was particularly persistent in Spain where hunting arms were usually equipped with bayonets from the 17th century until the advent of the cartridge era. The weapon was introduced into the French army by General Jean Martinet and was common in most European armies by the 166 s.[citation needed] The benefit of such a dual-purpose arm contained in one was soon apparent. The early muskets fired at a slow rate (about 2 rounds per minute when loading with loose powder and ball, and no more than 3Ц4 rounds per minute using paper cartridges), and could be both inaccurate and unreliable depending on quality of manufacture. Bayonets provided a useful addition to the weapons system when an enemy charging to contact could cross the musket's killing ground (a range of approximately 100 yards/meters at the most optimistic) at the expense of perhaps only one or two volleys from their waiting opponents. A bayonet on a 5-foot (around 1.5 meters) tall musket achieved a reach similar to the infantry spear, and later halberd, of earlier times. The bayonet/musket combination was, however, considerably heavier than a polearm of the same length.[citation needed] Early bayonets were of the "plug" type.[2] This allowed light infantry to be converted to heavy infantry and hold off cavalry charges. The bayonet had a round handle that slid directly into the musket barrel. This naturally prevented the gun from being fired. In 1671, plug bayonets were issued to the French regiment of fusiliers then raised. They were issued to part of an English dragoon regiment raised in 1672 and disbanded in 1674, and to the Royal Fusiliers when raised in 1685. The danger incurred by the use of this bayonet (which put a stop to all fire) was felt so early that the younger Puysegur invented a socket bayonet in 1678 that fitted over the muzzle using a circular band of metal, allowing the musket to be loaded and fired. However, it was not widely adopted at the time.